Deja Vu: A Look Back at Some of the Tirades Against Social Security and Medicare

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Huey Long

Huey Long speaks to students at Louisiana State University. (AP image)

Another roadblock to FDR’s Social Security Act was the populist Huey Long, a fiery senator from Louisiana, who in 1935 took the bill that would fund Social Security hostage, demanding a rider that would give loans to cotton and wheat farmers be restored after the House killed it.

Long filibustered for seven hours until midnight, when Congress began a several-month-long recess with the new Social Security system unfunded. The Senate was furious that Long had seemingly blunted one of the president’s signature achievements, but later that year FDR simply moved Labor Department funds to finance the first few months of the program. Long was famous for his filibusters, but this was his last — he was assassinated the following month.

Long had been hoping to launch a presidential campaign the following year with a platform of wealth distribution, and his final filibuster may have in part been a bid to draw attention to his concern for Americans who were suffering through the Depression, like farmers. In a speech earlier in 1935 he declared, “There is only one way to save our people; only one way to save America. How? Pull down wealth from the top and spread wealth at the bottom; free people of these debts they owe; God told just exactly how to do it all.

“Many other countries have been in the shape that America is in now; many fell and vanished like Rome and Greece, but some cared for their people and were saved.”

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